Welcome to Growth Interviews!

Welcome to Growth Interviews, the fun, stimulating and engaging series of conversations driven by digital business growth.

Our mission is to provide insights and ideas from world-class professionals on the topic of growth and to cut through the noise of so-called marketing tips and tricks, revealing the money-making strategies behind e-commerce.

Each episode is an intriguing challenge involving an insightful expert who reveals some of their best-kept secrets, which you can use right away to boost your business. 

In this week’s episode of Growth Interviews, we invite you to join our conversation with Roger Dooley, a world-renowned author, marketing professional, keynote speaker and recognized expert in the use of brain and behavior research to improve marketing, sales, customer experience, and corporate culture.

Roger has worked with companies ranging from Fortune 500 firms to entrepreneurial startups, providing his behavioral science insights on building high-traffic, customer-centric businesses. 

His books include Friction: The Untapped Force That Can Be Your Most Powerful Advantage and Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing

Roger is also the creator of Neuromarketing, the go-to blog for businesses looking to enhance their digital and conventional marketing, as well as the voice behind the “Brainfluence” podcast.

Roger Dooley co-founded College Confidential, a business that serves millions of college-bound students and parents and before that was the director of corporate planning for a Fortune 1000 company.

During the interview, we talked to Roger about how he uses neuroscience and behavioral science in marketing to spot inevitable points of friction and alter them to create a customer-centric environment that generates loyal customers and engaged team members.

We went over real-life examples who have eliminated friction throughout by observing behavior, identifying customer pain points and turning them into gain tactics. 

What is friction and how can you eliminate it to connect with your customers and get better results? There’s so much we can learn from Roger so be sure to listen to the podcast below.

Today’s high-speed world means that your efficiency in managing customer-centric relationships will determine your ultimate success or failure. That’s what our conversation with Roger is about today. Keep reading, you won’t want to miss it!

The importance of behavioral science, psychology and neuroscience in business

Valentin Radu: Roger, you’ve been here since Google started. Tell us what’s your perception right now? How do you think the business is evolving and how do you think about this new wave of entrepreneurs, whether it’s Instagram that wasn’t around, where you have Facebook that wasn’t around as well. How do you feel? Because you have this option to see things unfolding throughout the time. And where do you think this is going? 

Roger Dooley: Well, I think we’re seeing a much clearer recognition in businesses of all sizes of the importance of behavioral science, psychology and certainly neuroscience too. Just a few weeks ago Nielsen who is the biggest provider of neuromarketing services, a huge global company, got about 20 neuroscientists on their staff. They decided to turn these neuroscientists into behavioral science trainers for their clients. 

So, we see that happening a lot of times, I think the companies are missing the basics. I’ve occasionally consulted in jobs where they came in to get my behavioral science insights and the first thing I saw was very basic user experience. Certainly, bad user experience can be informed or good user experience can be informed by behavioral science, but a lot of this is very basic stuff. These are things that look clickable, where the user is supposed to click they don’t look like it and they let way too much text and talking about the specifications and features, instead of talking about how the user or the customer is going to benefit. 

The importance of behavioral science, psychology and neuroscience in business is undeniable.
Large and small businesses alike can take advantage of the different types of neuromarketing
One of the main points of behavioral science is observing behavior, with a focus on user experience. Here’s how to get the basics right:

👉 Optimize the customer experience in-store, on the website and during customer service relations.
👉 Build trust with your audience. Observe and interact to simplify their experience. See what you can learn from their behavior.
👉 Use the right digital tools to measure behavior.

Customer centricity. The pain points and winning tactics and strategy. 

Valentin Radu: I think that’s frustrating and that actually shows that companies don’t actually care about the users and their behavior but they do care about the money. Even though it’s so illogical to see that they don’t make the connection between the desired behavior and their profits.

Roger Dooley: Yeah, I think you’re right. Unfortunately, there’s often a tradeoff. If you read just about every company’s mission statement, they will tell you that they are customer-centric, that the customer is their first concern. But as you say when push comes to shove, often, they won’t spend even a little bit of money to make things better for their customer. They know that this would be better and they just choose not to spend that money or other times, in other cases, it may just be that they’re oblivious. They don’t know that the customers are having a bad experience because they aren’t paying attention.

Valentin Radu: A large part of our audience Roger, are e-commerce marketers and e-commerce managers and e-commerce owners as well. What do you think they are missing out from your perspective? Give us three growth ideas for e-commerce marketers, based on your knowledge and your experience with the e-commerce world.

Roger Dooley: Well, I think that looking at what the user’s pain points are. The customer’s pain points are important for whatever product you’re selling. When we have products, whether they’re our own products or whether we’re selling somebody else’s products, we like to talk about how great those products are, and that’s a good thing. But often, it’s more important to identify what the customer pain point is for that product and simply point up how that product is going to solve it. And then, the next thing is to use the great variety of non-conscious triggers out there. There are some companies that do this very well. If you go to many travel websites like booking.com, there is so much social psychology. Their pages are getting people to book now; they show how many people book the property. They will use scarcity “There’s only one room left at this price”. When they show up, all of a sudden, they can’t believe that 50 people have booked this in the last two days. That’s social proof. Another about scarcity and social proof are part of the fundamental seven principles. Used to be six but now with unity, there are seven. So many things like this. The science has been around for 30+ years but many businesses just don’t bother to use it.

The final thing is, and this is really the premise of my “Friction” book, that making it super easy to do whatever you want that customer to do, is much, much cheaper for you than trying to motivate them more to do it. If I’m an eCommerce site, I guarantee that I can increase my conversion rate if I throw in a bonus product or if I offer free shipping when I don’t normally offer free shipping. That will work every time but that costs money or we’re oftentimes just removing some of the little blockers to conversion when there is so much more important.

That’s why Amazon so successful. It’s because they made it so simple and easy to shop with them. They patented one-click ordering back in 1998, so that’s almost 20 years ago and they defended their patent because they knew it provided them with a major competitive advantage.

Apple licensed that because they didn’t want to mess around fighting with them in court. They wanted it for their music store and said: “Hey, we’ll pay! We want to use it! Steve Jobs knew something about user experience and many other things. Frustration packaging: for years, when you bought a product even from a mail-order company or an e-commerce company, it came in the same retail packaging that stores put it in. So, it’s a clear plastic thing you have to use some kind of shoes or a knife or a chainsaw to open up and you risk injuring yourself on these sharp plastic edges but those are very good for retail. It made it hard to steal and it gave you good product visibility. Amazon changed with the simple cardboard boxes that were easy for the user to open. There was no risk of injuring yourself in the process.

And what they found was that not only did people like the packaging but the negative comments about those products went down 73%. So, the ease of opening translated into liking that the product itself better. So their focus has been on eliminating friction throughout. And I think that any eCommerce company can follow that as a lesson and you better be able to catch up with Amazon but you can certainly do better than your competitors. 

Three growth ideas for e-commerce marketers:

1. Turn customer pain points into tactics. Identify what the customer pain point is for that product and simply point up how that product is going to solve his or her unique problem.
2. Target your user’s unconscious needs as well as their conscious ones. Think of how travel websites encourage their users to make a purpose by using scarcity, social psychology, and social proof.
3. Eliminate friction by removing conversion blockers. Take a look at your conversion steps and then simplify them. Guiding your customers through a seamless, easy conversion process will be less costly than trying to motivate them to find their own way.

The unified theory of friction

Valentin Radu: Perfect. So, Roger, tell us! For those of us that haven’t read your latest book, Friction. Tell us about your book and how you started. Maybe you can start by sharing with us how you initially started to write because you’re doing such an amazing job. I’m pretty sure that a lot of us from throughout the world are benefiting from your insights and from your ideas. But tell us how you’ve started to contribute and write in the very beginning.

Roger Dooley: You can use non-conscious motivators; things like scarcity and authority and things like that don’t really cost you anything. But if you want to start giving people free stuff or reducing your price, giving them discounts, that costs real money. We’re often just reducing friction, reducing those obstacles to them completing the task of placing an order or turning into a sales lead. It’s much more cost-effective all around and it provides a better experience which keeps people loyal.

So, I started focusing on this initially from the customer experience and user experience standpoint and I realized that it affects more than that, it affects employee experience. I don’t know how it is in your world the balance, but in the US, there is a large percentage of the people, over 60% or 70 % of the people are not engaged with their employer. So, they’re doing their job but they’re not really engaged in their job. They’re doing it because they get paid for it. And that means that the quality of their work isn’t going to be quite as good as if they were really, intrinsically motivated to do a great job and take care of the customers.

So, I realized that often that lack of engagement is because of internal friction, bad processes in the company that force people to waste their time, to fill out forms, to create reports that nobody’s paying attention to. All these things that make people feel that their work is not valued. And so, they show up because they’re getting paid but they just don’t really engage with the company. And then beyond that, even the personal habit formation.

I started reading many of the great books about habits and reading from some of the thinkers. I had people like BJ Fogg and it was his behavior model that was in fact the basis for my persuasion side. And his constant on habit formation is to do something so simple and so easy that you won’t mind doing it. You shouldn’t say, ‘Okay! I’m going to work out for an hour every day.’ because you’ll quit soon, it’s too much work. But he does very simple things like instead of deciding to floss every day, I’ll floss one tooth every day for starters and that’s it. It takes just a few seconds and gradually, then, you’ll build up that habit. And James Clear who wrote the great book, “Atomic Habits”, that just came out within the last year, goes down that same path of trying. If you want to adopt a habit, make it easy. There’s no effort. If you want to work out at the gym, join a gym that is on your way home from your place of work so you don’t even have to drive outside your route. Part of that, if you have to deviate from your regular commute, the more likely is that you won’t do that at all.

What I did with the book was to create sort of a unified theory of friction. Everything in our life is affected by friction. But the main emphasis is on the business aspects because when people start seeing friction in their customer experience if you’re a frontline customer service, people who are in contact with customers see friction that can be eliminated. They start seeing it not just in that customer experience, they see it in their own everyday experience. And when they do that, if management is responsive and eliminates it, it ends up with a friction aware culture where the company not only does a better job for the customers but they’re doing a better job internally. 

Here’s how reducing friction can help take your business to the next level:

Friction is all around us. In terms of user experience, it represents difficulty and effort. The more friction there is say in a checkout process, the more likely it is that the customer won’t complete it. By understanding the impact friction can have, you can establish positive habits and minimize customer effort. 

Reducing friction means taking away the unnecessary expenditure of time, effort or money in performing a task. It means reducing obstacles to them finding the right product for them, placing an order or opening a package. 

A unified theory of friction has effects both on your external, customer-focused experiences, as well as the internal, employee-related ones. Elimination time consuming processes cam make employee feel valued, which in turn means they will be more involved at work and in their job.


In-depth personalization of customer experience with machine learning 

Valentin Radu: Roger you are assisting, as we are as well, this new wave of machine learning taking over. We’ve got the initial way of interpreting data with our brains, with our human brains which are biased of course. And we’ve looked at some kind of patterns and anomalies. Now, we have machine learning. We have data analytics made somehow on autopilot. We have ways to reveal patterns in the behavior of our users on the websites. Where do you think this is going to lead us? What’s your take on machine learning and how do you think this world is going to look in the next 10 or 20 or 50 years from your perspective?

Roger Dooley: Well, theoretically, it should be a better world because companies are going to find those things that are bad in their experience and fix them. I think we’ll also see a much more personalized world and personalized service, it is almost always better. I mean right now, our personalization is fairly crude. We target people for ads. We show somebody a product because it’s related to a product they previously bought. This is okay, it’s better than showing them a completely irrelevant ad or product but it’s not a high level of personalization.

What I’m seeing now is initiatives like those at Disney and Carnival Cruise Line where they have these tools that let people be measured and tracked and identified which in one sense it is kind of scary. But these are very trusted brands and they’re doing it in their own environments. What that does is, it comes with a very high level of personalization, so when you sit down at the table in one of their restaurants, you can be recognized immediately by name. If you have a preference for a beverage that can be served without even asking you.

I had a chance just a few weeks ago to visit Carnival’s Innovation Center. Carnival Cruise Line is the world’s biggest cruise operator. They have simulated every aspect of the cruise even from when you are on land when you’re getting ready to board and you’ve got to check-in and get your documentation checked and so on. All the way through different mockups of different kinds of cabins on a cruise ship; a restaurant, a bar and so on. All these things are simulated so they can test the technology and they give you a little device. I’ve got one here which is a medallion. And actually, the operative part is just a little round disk in there that you can carry in your pocket, you can you put it on a watch or in a lanyard and it recognizes you. And it not only follows you around but as you approach your cabin, it’ll unlock your cabin door for you. It was amusing because John Patrick, who’s all leading this effort and it was previously the Disney Magic Band guy, said that when he was presenting, people asked him and also other executives asked him: “Why do people want that cabin unlocking feature?  We already have it. It’s really simple. Just take your card and then you swipe it. No that’s no problem.” And: “It’s going to be expensive to retrofit all of the locks on those ships to do this.”

And he prevailed and electro-fitted the locks and, as they did their first test cruises with passengers, they asked, ‘What do you remember? Like what do you like best?’, amazingly, one of the things people most mentioned was the simple little thing of unlocking the door automatically. And again, this is the other executives were not observing the behavior of their passengers.

It’s like Disney tracks the flow of crowds around the park and, if they see things getting crowded in one area, they can take some actions to try and attract people to other areas so that everybody has a good experience. It’s very powerful and we’re just starting a very early age of that technology. 

Frictionless tips and tricks for customer retention rate optimization

Valentin Radu: Yes, I think we’re really in the early era of personalization and I’m completely with you on this. So, Roger, part of our focus right now is customer retention rate. We have been somehow frustrated to see that so many eCommerce players are not even measuring their retention rate. As you said, part of the success is to understand the experience, to form and facilitate habit-forming to your users. What’s your take into customer retention? Do you think this is going to be a big thing in the future, and some tips regarding optimizing customer retention rate.

Roger Dooley: There’s always an emphasis on customer acquisition rather than customer retention to the point where, as you say, some companies don’t even track it now. But, I think most smart companies do track. It is important. I think that there is some amazing data about customer loyalty and how it relates to customer effort, particularly when it comes to customer service interactions or problem resolution of the data. The big research companies published some data that is almost unbelievable. It’s sort of striking that 94% of customers who have a high effort experience in resolving a problem are likely to be disloyal compared to only about 9% of customers who have a low effort experience.

This is just amazing. Similarly, the number of customers who are going to say bad things about your company is like a 90 to 1 ratio when it’s high effort versus low effort. Companies don’t realize, in part because they aren’t observing their customers, they don’t recognize a high effort. I think that if you ask people how difficult is for your customers to resolve a problem, they’ll say, ‘We’re great! We’re one of the best in the industry, we’ve got a very good procedure, great staff, well-trained, they treat customers well.’ But then when you ask the customers, more than half will say it took a lot of effort to resolve a problem, and effort can be different things. It can be having to change channels. So, you start off on Twitter and they say, ‘Oh well! You should call our 800 number to resolve that.’ Oh! So the customer is going to go to their phone and do that. It can be having to explain things multiple times. I’m sure you’ve had that experience where either you’re getting tech support or you’re trying to resolve an order problem, explain your problem to the first person and they say, ‘Oh! You need to talk to this other department and you get transferred and you have to explain it all again. The worst ones are the businesses that not only do they authenticate you the first time by asking you questions to prove your identity: “Give me your date of birth, your address, last four digits to your credit card.’, but you get to the second level person and they ask you the same questions again. And this is a negative experience and after that, you are no longer happy with that company. You are irritated. You’re irritated to begin with because you’re having a problem that needs to be resolved, but that really adds to it. And that’s why there’s a striking difference between low effort where Amazon again makes it so easy to return things. Everything you need to return something is right there in the package like multiple channels. You can take it to an Amazon Locker, you can take it to some retail stores, you can take it to the US either UPS or the post office and you don’t even have to interact with people. You can do it automatically online and it’s just so simple.

Valentin Radu: I’m totally with you and what you’re saying regarding the effort at the end of the day is friction as well. So, the frictionless wins, the frictionless company wins.  It’s even beating the price difference, and that’s very important because if you don’t want to diminish the price in order to compete, maybe it’s time to diminish the friction because it’s far cheaper.

Roger Dooley: Exactly. It’s usually cheaper to do that. 

Valentin Radu: Yeah, it’s cheaper to diminish the friction than the price. So, Roger, tell us a story. When you were very young and just at the beginning of your career, tell us how you felt and give yourself advice based on your whole experience. So what have you felt, what do you think is the most important advice that you would have appreciated at that moment?

Roger Dooley: Well, it’s both easy and difficult to look back and say, ‘Gee, I should have done this differently or what should I have done.’ On the one hand, even the mistakes that I made got me to where I am now, which is a place that I’m pretty happy with. So, I can say, ‘Gee, you know this was a bad decision at the time but somehow it ended up with me in a good place and I think that most of our careers are like that. We are in our current situation, even get around for a while, because of a whole combination of circumstances many which were beyond our control, many which were unexpected where we had career changes and job changes and other things that happened but got us where we are. And I think that if I had perhaps one piece of advice that I would give, it is to not stick with things for too long if they don’t seem to be working. I know there is a great tendency to stay with what’s comfortable. So, certainly, there were some job situations that I realized ‘This is not really going to be a good long term solution for me. It’s just not the best fit. I don’t really enjoy what I’m doing every day but, gee the salary is good.’ So, I just stick with it for a while I thought about what to do. And sometimes, just delaying what you know is the action that you should be taking ends up stretching into months or even years sometimes because it’s just more comfortable to keep doing what you’re doing. It’s something that’s not really awful.

And I would encourage people if they are in that situation. It can be something that not just work with somebody else. It could be working on a project that you began in a company that you just see that is not going to be the growth opportunity. It’s maybe, paying your bills now, but it’s not going to provide either the experience that you were looking for or the financial stability long-term that you’re looking for but it’s comfortable to stick with it or you don’t want to give up on it because, ‘Ah! Maybe I’ll turn around.’

To me, I think that it’s better to pull the plug more quickly and I’ve seen that even with my own kids when they’ve changed employment situations where they had something that seemed to be pretty good, perhaps not the actual long-term thing but it’s like Gee! Before you jump, you should find something better so that you have a seamless transition. They instead said Okay! This isn’t going to work. I’m going to pull the plug and focus on what I got to do next full time. And in every case that turned out to be the smart move and ended up in a better situation.

It’s time to finally move the emphasis from customer acquisition to customer retention. Here are 4 key aspects to remember about friction’s effect on your customer retention rate:

1. The first step in building an effective loyalty program is working on customer retention. To be specific, it’s identifying the conversion obstacles, those that make your most valuable processes more difficult: checkout, customer service, product comparison and more. The key to managing and improving conversions is to reduce customer effort.

2. Drivers of disloyalty also depend on the amount of effort used to resolve a customer service issue.

3. When it comes to high effort versus low effort interactions with your company, 94% of customers who have a high effort experience in resolving a problem are more likely to be disloyal.

4. Reducing friction in the customer service area has a high impact on loyalty and repeat business.

The theory of growth

Valentin Radu: Yeah that’s true. So, Roger, I have two more questions and then we’re done. One question is, what do you think is growth for an entrepreneur, for a marketer, for a professional? Because it’s a different thing to be an employee, it’s a different thing to be an entrepreneur. But what growth actually means for you as an individual behind the role? So, for the company, let’s say it’s clear what growth means. Yeah, you see it in the P&L, you see it in the numbers. But what is growth for you?

Roger Dooley: I think the less obvious kinds of growth are one: personal growth. Are you developing new skills, new understanding? Is this part of what you’re doing? Are you improving as a manager, as an entrepreneur? Are you learning other kinds of more technical skills or specific skills? Now, that’s one kind of growth that I think is really important and it’s easy to make it like that when you’re managing a business every day. You manage all day and every day is pretty much like the one previously.

So, focusing on that growth where in some cases that may be taking advantage of outside opportunities to learn and in other cases, just creating those opportunities yourself inside your business. But either way, that’s really important. The other thing that I found very rewarding is seeing how a successful enterprise can help other people. And those can sometimes be your customers or your users. The college business, College Confidential, was really beneficial for literally millions of students over the years in the US and around the world who were trying to deal with this very confusing problem of getting into colleges, particularly difficult colleges, and there was so little information available.

We can literally see lives being changed by what we were doing even though, for a lot of years, we weren’t making any money with it. That was one of the things that kept us going. Because every year, we would get these letters from students and sometimes from their parents, about how they got into their dream school because of the help they received from our website.

Also, the employee growth where, in a previous business, my direct marketing business, we employed many people over the years and we saw these employees have babies, start families, buy houses, buy cars. Just seeing this growth that took place because of an original idea that we had, that was very rewarding too.

Striving for business success may be the goal, but the key is being willing and able to grow every day. Here are 3 other types of growth you should focus on:

👉 Personal growth
: focus on developing new skills, a new understanding of your domain, of your position. Take advantage of outside opportunities to learn and grow.
👉 The benefit of your business: focus on how your business is changing or improving the lives of others. Use it as motivation to keep going and keep growing.
👉 Employee growth: Look at how your business benefits your direct associates, employees, their lifestyle and/or families

Conclusion

We’ve just begun to unravel the complexities of using neuroscience and behavioral science in marketing. Roger Dooley’s approach to friction involves empowering frank conversations, guiding individual and team behaviors, eliminating friction both internally and externally and optimizing the customer experience for long term customer retention. 

How did you find this experience? Was it insightful?
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